First, understand true persecution

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those are the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew’s gospel as a part of the Beatitudes, the introductory blessings of the Sermon on the Mount. The understanding of such words truly depends on the context in which one hears them.

For Christians in the first century, they were words that were meant to encourage the faithful in the face of severe, life-threatening and state-issued persecution.

Christians were killed for their faith in Jesus, so words like these from Matthew’s gospel were meant to bolster hope and inspire courage in the face of such persecution. Believers were to stand firm in their faith, while not retaliating out of defense or anger.

For many Christians (as well as people of other faiths), this kind of persecution is still very much a reality, as powerful groups still execute, torture and terrorize people on the basis of their faith.

Unfortunately, many Christians in the West have decided to use the word “persecution” too loosely, labeling everything from Sunday alcohol sales to the inclusion of other faiths as persecution.

Friends, this is not persecution, and it dishonors the lives of the faithful around the world who live under the threat of their very lives because of their beliefs.

So, how should the faithful respond to persecution? Be honest about what is simply personal preference and discomfort; don’t label it “persecution.” And always be mindful and praying for those who live under the genuine threat of persecution each and every day, for being mindful of their faith may inspire you to be more genuine in your own, and God knows they truly need our prayers and support.  

— Chris Thomas, First Baptist Church of Williams, Jacksonville

Respond with patience and tolerance

All the prophets of God have been persecuted like Prophet Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. The first 13 years of prophetic life of Muhammad was of full of persecution. It started with verbal persecution and then it became physical. The polytheist Makkans threw trash on him, attempted to strangle him and much more. But he kept on preaching and doing his job as a prophet. When the torture and persecution got too much, he allowed his followers to move to Ethiopia. That was the first migration because of persecution.

After a few years, when the Makkans planned to kill the prophet, all the Muslims along with the prophet migrated to another town, Madina. For 13 years, the Prophet and his followers had tolerated the persecution of the Makkans. But when Makkans followed Muslims all the way to Madina to try to kill them, Muslims were allowed to fight back. This fighting was allowed only to fight back against the aggressors. As the Quran is clear in more than one place, “Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities” (Quran 2:190).

So, a believer’s initial response to persecution is patience, tolerance and effort to make the persecutor understand. At the individual level, legal procedure and precautionary measures should be taken. One should have proper security measures and then leave things to God, who is the actual protector.

— Muhammad Haq, Anniston Islamic Center